My Old Lady
Reviewed by David Kashimba
Photo by Ed Smith

Marin Theatre’s current production, My Old Lady, has a way of sneaking up on you with its surprising depth of character and history.

It starts off a little like a comedy of errors. Mathias Gold (Anthony Fusco) spends the last of his meager savings on a plane ticket to Paris. His father has died and left the down and out son an apartment. After three divorces and an unsuccessful writing career, Gold just wants to sell the apartment as fast as possible and fly back to America but things turn out to be far more complicated than he anticipated. His father Max had bought the apartment below market value as a “viager,” meaning, under Parisian law, the new owner cannot occupy it until the existing occupant dies, with the added string that the owner is responsible for the tenant’s maintenance fees. Gold finds out all this from the 94 year old tenant Mathilde Giffard (Joy Carlin) in the comic opening scene. The comedy continues when he meets Giffard’s daughter Cloe (Nancy Carlin) who looks at Gold with hate at first sight.

But it soon becomes evident that there’s more going on here than floats on the comic surface. The more Gold makes light of his predicament the more the audience detects a deep sadness behind his comic jabs. “Mathius… jokes and uses humor as a way of covering his pain and distancing himself from his rage toward his father,” said director Amy Glazer. “Mathias has been married many times, had a horrible relationship with his father, went through a traumatic experience with his mother and deals with his hurt through humor and irony. His Jewish neurosis provides a counterpoint, both dramatic and comic, to the European, Parisian sensibility and attitudes of Mathilde and Chloe.”

Balancing this darkness with the lighter moments becomes a real dramatic challenge for all the actors but particularly for Anthony Fusco. A graduate of Tam High and former College of Marin student, Fusco’s topnotch performance makes this play work on all the levels its author, Israel Horovitz, meant it to.

There are many layers of thought provoking history and culture clashes with some particularly insightful looks into France’s controversial actions during WWII. But even though the tone of the drama grows more serious, Fusco’s performance manages to pull a thread of comedy through the entire play allowing the audience to remain uplifted by this drama of cultures and profound humanity.

For tickets or more information call (415) 388-5208 or visit

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